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The book Jaws by Peter Benchley was published in 1974 and became an international bestseller, followed by the movie adaptation that became an instant cult classic and a favorite of many. Since then, some sequels have been made and many knock-off novels that play on the whole idea of a sea monster on the loose terrorizing a small town and its people. I thought Kronos Rising (by Max Hawthorne) would be another unrealistic example of this genre: predictable, over the top, and simply inaccurate, but the book was, in fact, a complete surprise.
It is a classic setting: a small American town on the east coast, where things are simple and straightforward and haven’t changed in some time. Jake Braddock is the town sheriff, a former Olympic fencer who lost his wife in a tragic accident and has made some bad choices in his life, but now he’s on the straight and narrow and does just fine dealing with simple, small-time crimes, until that all changes. People are starting to disappear out on the water and at first it seems like there might be a man-eating shark on the loose; the evidence seems to point to something bigger, much bigger. And when an uneaten part of a rich senator’s son shows up, things really begin to heat up. The media gets involved, wanting to know what creature is behind the attacks. Braddock enlists the help of a pretty scientist who has shown up with her crew from the World Cetacean Society; she has some evidence revealing that the creature is not just big, but enormous; a surviving relic from the time of the dinosaurs known as the Kronosaurus queenslandicus. It is hard to believe, but the evidence is irrefutable. The media has a field day with this announcement, not believing them until the giant creature shows up in the harbor and wreaks havoc upon its residents. The rich senator calls in an elite group to take care of this creature, enlisting the help of Braddock and the scientist, though the sheriff knows they’re getting in way over their heads.
The characters in Kronos Rising are well developed, each with their own complicated backgrounds that have a strong bearing on their current lives. The key to a good story is conflict, and this book is full of it, as the characters come into conflict with each other, which, at times, feels a little contrived, but nevertheless makes for addictive, page-turning reading. Max Hawthorne has also done his research into marine biology and ocean life, which all helps make his characters more knowledgeable and interesting and the whole world more believable, even if there is a giant monster eating people in it. The writing is compelling and action-filled, so even though the book is well over 500 pages long, it is still an addictive read. While the last third of the book goes off the rails a little, and some of the characters become almost caricatures, overall the book is a great addition to this genre, worthy of sitting on the shelf next to Peter Benchley’s Jaws.
San Francisco Book Review
Original Post Date 5/11/2014